Explaining Southern California's economy

Chris Dodd wants Hollywood and Silicon Valley to patch things up

CinemaCon 2011 - Day 2

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Former U.S. Sen. and new Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd speaks at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, March 29, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

You could say that it's the great business question of our era. Certainly it is in California. Why can't Silicon Valley, seat of the tech industry, and Hollywood, capital of the entertainment business, join forces and create a juggernaut of technotainment that will establish the Golden State as the most important place on Earth for innovation and global media?

In theory, it should be a no-brainer. But in practice it's a case of colliding business models. Big Content has built up its ownership of media over the course of a century. It's not going to share the goodies without claiming its cut.

Big Tech, on the other hand, wants all that content to be free, free, free. Chris Anderson pretty well laid it all out, in detail horrifying to Hollywood, in 2009, in his aptly titled book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price." Why? Because the ability to fragment and share content is a critical piece of Silicon Valley's overall business model. Users need to be able to do this by the millions if not billions, so that various Web companies and appmakers can sell ads against the — wait for it — free labor of those users. 

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Ivy League-Wall Street connection opens space for California entrepreneurs

Mary Altaffer/AP

Recent surveys show that a large percentage of graduates from the nation's top schools are taking jobs in consulting or financial sector.

UPDATE: The time is now, California grads! This is from Gabe Sherman's big New York Magazine piece on the end of Wall Street's bonus bonanza: "'If you’re a smart Ph.D. from MIT, you’d never go to Wall Street now,' says a hedge-fund executive. 'You’d go to Silicon Valley. There’s at least a prospect for a huge gain. You’d have the potential to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. It looks like he has a lot more fun.'"

NPR ran a piece today about how too many graduates of the nation's elite universities are going to work in either finance or consulting. At some prestigious schools, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, the percentages are alarming. The story cites a survey of 2010 Harvard grads that found close to half of graduates were planning on heading for the green meadows of big money. 

California's top schools aren't immune to this trend. Far from it. Stanford sends plenty of students into finance, as does Cal-Tech. However, they aren't yet at quite the same levels as their East Coast brethren. 

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Facebook IPO? Oh, who really cares...

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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a news conference at Facebook headquarters on October 6, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.

At Forbes, Peter Cohan isn't exactly thrilled by Facebook's impending IPO. Which, it should be added, is no longer being talked about aa a $100 billion public offering so much as a $75-$100 billion public offering, with the emphasis on that lower number. Anyway, here's Cohan:

It is popular in the media to compare the Facebook IPO to that of Google whose price has risen nicely since its 2004 IPO from $84 to $580. That 30% compound annual growth is good – but Google trades 19% below its 2007 peak of $715.

To be fair, there is a bit of good news for those hoping that Facebook stock will climb after it goes public.  A quick look at Google’s 2004 prospectus reveals that its IPO price of $84 valued Google at a P/E of 80 – the same as Facebook’s estimated P/E (Google had 271 million shares and estimated 2004 net income of $286 million at the time of its August 2004 IPO).

That’s the only glimmer of good news for why Facebook’s IPO might breathe some life into the business of VCs and tech entrepreneurs. But Facebook’s inability to transform the way companies operate their business means that it will remain a niche phenomenon in the grander economic scheme.

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Jerry Yang resigns from Yahoo, the tech company that never was

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A Yahoo! billboard is visible through trees in San Francisco, California.

Yahoo co-founder and chairman (and former CEO) Jerry Yang has resigned completely from Yahoo. The Wall Street Journal has a succinct explanation why:

Mr. Yang's exit is the latest chapter for Yahoo and underlines the widening gap between old Internet companies and newer ones. Yahoo was part of an earlier crop of Web companies from the 1990s that helped spark the dot-com boom and came of age as users world-wide began going online.

But after riding that wave, new companies such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.—often with younger leaders like 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook—came to prominence with Web technologies such as search and social networking, leaving older firms like Yahoo struggling to catch up.

Those two paragraphs, in their way, explain the precise problem with Yahoo: it isn't a tech company. Rather, it's a media company and always really has been. Yahoo was conceived in the Web 1.0 world of unruly distraction and idealistic alternatives to legacy media, especially television.

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In SOPA debate, is Hollywood on the wrong side of history?

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Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT)

The debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act is heating up. The SOPA bill could come to a vote this week in the House, and a similar bill is under consideration in the Senate. This has kicked the so-called "Geek Lobby" into high gear. Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm in New York, has been vocal on his blog, going to far as to symbolically censor his post today as a call to action.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has suggested that the online encyclopedia could go on strike in protest. And California Republican congressman Darrell Issa has broken ranks and proposed his own alternative legislation, allying himself with Silicon Valley against Hollywood and the Big Content industry that supports the SOPA legislation.

The opposition has also created a video explainer on why the legislation is the worst thing that's ever been proposed. It's over-the-top and doesn't present the issue with anything resembling complete accuracy. But it is worth a watch (In the interest of reasonable objectivity, I'm not going to embed it, so follow the link if you're interested).

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